Rep. Gallego and Rep. Boyle to President Trump: Clarify Your Policy on Regime Change in Syria
Washington, D.C. –Today, Congressman Ruben Gallego (AZ-07) and Congressman Brendan Boyle (PA-13) wrote to President Trump urging him to clarify whether it is now his Administration’s policy to seek the removal from power of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The letter comes after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer compared Assad to Adolf Hitler on Tuesday and after senior advisors to President Trump offered a series of conflicting statements about this crucial aspect of American strategy in Syria over the weekend. The full text of the letter is below.
“The fact that high-ranking officials in the Trump administration are struggling to answer the most fundamental question about our objectives in Syria – whether the United States is actively pursuing regime change – leads inexorably to the conclusion that President Trump ordered the airstrikes without considering the potential consequences,” said Rep. Gallego. “Congress deserves a debate and a vote on authorizing further military action in Syria. But first, we need to know whether Trump intends to seek the removal of President Assad.”
“I am deeply troubled by the confusion presented publicly by President Trump and members of his administration as they struggle to explain recent military action against Syria. Action that was undertaken without any clear authorization from Congress or established policy," said Rep. Boyle, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "Our Constitution makes clear that these decisions must come before Congress. Congress must not abdicate this responsibility. We, the people's elected representatives, must finally debate and vote on this issue and the President must inform us of his intentions regarding foreign policy with the Assad regime," added Boyle.
Dear Mr. President:
Following US airstrikes in Syria last week, senior officials in your Administration have rightly faced questions about whether it is now the policy of the United States government to seek the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Unfortunately, even with regard to this most central of issues in the Syrian civil war, the answers provided by your advisors have been confusing and contradictory. Given America’s escalating involvement in this conflict, we write to request clarification of this fundamental aspect of American strategy – moving forward, will your Administration actively pursue the removal from power of President Assad?
On Sunday, in multiple interviews, high-ranking officials in your Administration appeared to argue both for and against the ouster of Assad. Secretary Tillerson told ABC News that, “We've seen what that looks like when you undertake a violent regime change in Libya…. So I think we have to learn the lessons of the past and learn the lessons of what went wrong in Libya when you choose that pathway of regime change.” Tillerson’s statement was in keeping with his previous insistence that “the longer term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people” and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s statement on March 30th that “our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out.”
In sharp contrast, your National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, argued in an appearance on Fox News this weekend that Assad’s removal from power would be beneficial, saying, “It’s very hard to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime.” Similarly, and in an abrupt departure from her previous remarks, Ambassador Haley stated on CNN that, “We don't see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there,” and that, “We know there's not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime.”
The fact that key figures in your Administration have publically articulated contradictory positions on this crucial question is confounding. It suggests the absence of an overarching strategy for accomplishing US objectives in Syria, or even a clear understanding of what those goals might be. Moreover, this confusion among your top advisors on such a basic aspect of US policy is compelling evidence of a lack of thorough planning in advance of the airstrikes you ordered and of a troubling failure to consider their potential ramifications.
Consistent with our obligations under the Constitution, Congress has a responsibility to weigh whether our nation’s military should engage in further attacks on the Syrian regime. Such deliberations will be severely undermined without a clear understanding of whether your Administration intends to actively pursue the removal of President Assad from power. Again, we urgently request clarification of this critical aspect of American strategy in Syria.
Ruben Gallego Brendan F. Boyle
Member of Congress Member of Congress